the natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women don’t act, when we hesitate because we aren’t sure, we hold ourselves back. But when we do act, even if it’s because we’re forced to, we perform just as well as men do’.
My question for you is what are you going to do today to narrow the confidence gap?
“I want to be authentically confident”, is a common wish I hear from clients. But what does being authentic actually mean?
The Oxford Dictionary defines authentic as ‘not a copy; genuine’. To me, it means being yourself, and not an imitation of what you or others think you should be.
You are acting authentically when your behaviours match your beliefs and personality. It can be tricky, though to identify which are your beliefs, from those you may have picked up from your parent or partner.
In my younger years, I moulded my personality and beliefs to fit in with the people I cared about. This meant I traded my authentic self, to ensure I wasn’t judged and I fitted in.
Unfortunately, this can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety and shame, as well as the need for others to give you the love and approval you can’t give yourself.
It wasn’t until I had the courage to authentically speak up for my opinions and feelings that I stopped the constant search for validation.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E. Cummings
Being authentically confident requires courage, time and commitment, however, it is well worth the effort.
Here are a few simple steps to help you:
Identify your beliefs and values. These are your moral compass and guide you in the actions and decisions you make. You can identify them by thinking about times you were really happy and times you were very low, and identify what yours and others behaviours were that meant you felt good or bad.
Respect yourself. This sounds easy but can be difficult when other people disagree with your behaviour or opinions. The important thing is to speak up or act on your thoughts, wants and needs. It gives your self-worth such a boost to have trusted and respected yourself
Accept your weaknesses. If you can acknowledge and accept both your talents and your flaws, it empowers you to be authentic. The focus shouldn’t just be on what you want to improve, but also recognising and celebrating your successes
Have courage. Be bold enough to live your life according to what you believe is right, and not let fear stop you from doing the things you dream of. What is the worst case scenario if you were brave? Could you live with it?
Focus on yourself in the present moment. By eeping your thoughts on the moment you’re less concerned about what others think, and it liberates you to be authentically you.
Imagine the empowerment and feeling of freedom, from truly being yourself and listening to what you need and want. From treating yourself with the respect and approval you deserve.
It’s quite natural to want or desire something in our lives; whether that’s world peace or a pair of Jimmy Choo’s, isn’t important.
But why we think we want them, and what we believe they will give us, does matter.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the verb “want” as “to have a desire to possess or do something”. and the noun as “a lack or deficiency of something”.
That feeling of desiring or lacking something can have a profound effect on our happiness and confidence.
When I started to think about the things I wanted or wished for (after world peace obviously!). I realised there was quite a lot, and that wanting things quite often popped into my thoughts.
At the time of writing this blog I came up with my current top 6:
I want to book a family holiday
I wish I could have a cleaner every day
I want an All Saints top that appeared in my browser
I wish I was nearer my friend whose Dad has just died
I want to finish that open bag of Werthers sweets
I wish there was more time in a day
Some of my wants aren’t achievable, such as more time in the day. Others aren’t exactly a necessity, like a cleaner every day and some are just greed!
It did make me think, though, about how these thoughts might be affecting my self-esteem and happiness. Also, do I really want those things, or am I just being manipulated by marketing?
When I started to reflect on these questions, I realised that wanting things was often my natural reaction to a situation. For example:
Feeling overwhelmed – I want a holiday or a cleaner
Need to earn more money – I want a quick fix marketing programme
A friend buys a new outfit – I wish I could have a new outfit too
Feeling sad or guilty – I want to do something to help others
Feeling bored – I want that bag of sweets
not all wanting is a bad thing, but perhaps rather than just wanting a distraction, a quick fix or to feel better. I could focus on my emotions and real needs in that moment, which is far more likely to boost my confidence and self-esteem than reaching for a credit card.
My tips for you would therefore be:
Take some time to think about the things you’re wanting. Question yourself, why you want them and what they are really trying to solve. Is there a different way you could meet that need?
I found it an interesting exercise, although it hasn’t stopped me lusting for those Jimmy Choos!!
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When I worked in the corporate world I remember the pressure I felt under to get promoted and be successful.
I’m not sure if that was driven by my own beliefs, by peer pressure or the culture in the company. But I do know it affected my confidence to go for career success.
One of the reasons that women hold back from going for a promotion, is that we are less likely to believe in our abilities and to take a risk in applying
To help you I’m sharing with you ‘My Top 10 Tips To Get A Promotion’. I’m sure you’ll find them helpful to set you on the journey to career success.
Research the role. Get clarity on what is required, the skills and behaviours necessary and ensure it’s actually a job you would like to do. You don’t always have to move up the career ladder, it might suit you to do a sideways move to a different ladder instead.
Identify and accept your strengths and weaknesses. Being aware of your weaknesses and celebrating your strengths is key to demonstrating confidence. As well as being useful for interviews!
Identify why you’re putting off going for a new role. Is your inner critical voice sabotaging your confidence? Perhaps it’s saying things like ‘I’m not clever enough”, “I’m not good enough” or “everyone else will be better than me”. These negative beliefs are false and shouldn’t be listened to. What would be a more realistic belief instead?
Don’t overthink it. As women we are in general, quite bad at overanalyzing or going over and over a decision. Make the decision and then go for it. If it doesn’t go the way you want it to then you can just make another decision to change.
Don’t let fear of failure put you off. Failure to one person is a learning experience to another so change your perspective and only focus on the things you can control
If you get negative feedback clarify it. Make sure you get a detailed response so you have something to work on. Then make your own decision whether the feedback is correct and worthwhile
Avoid all or nothing thinking. For example, either I get the job or that’s it I’ll be out on the street.
Focus on small steps. Going for a promotion may mean you have to achieve many things in preparation. Instead of being overwhelmed, make a plan and take it one step at a time
What is the worst that could happen? If you don’t get the role, will it really be a disaster? Or will you just have had a useful experience to help next time?
What would you say to a colleague your situation? Would you tell them to go for it? What advice would you offer?
Do you feel more confident to put yourself out there?
With the start of a new year, it’s natural to reflect on how you’re going to be happier, more effective or achieve more in the coming year.
To be successful in business, women need their confidence to be at least equal to their competence.
With my clients who struggle with confidence, I commonly see these 4 confidence traps that they can fall into. The result is increasing amounts of self-doubt, and missing out on valuable opportunities.
Trap 1 : Fear of Failure
We would all like to succeed in our work, but is a fear of failure stopping you from taking on new projects or putting yourself out there?
It’s worth being curious about what it is you fear will actually happen if things go wrong, and what the effect would be on you.
Are you actually just scared about how bad you’ll feel? Then remember thoughts and feelings are only transitory and that they will soon pass.
Trap 2: Lack of fulfillment
If you feel dissatisfied at work, and that your talents and skills aren’t being used. It can lead to you disengaging from your work and lacking confidence.
If this is you, then focus on the successes you are having at work rather than the things that you find boring. Keep a record of the achievements you’ve made to maintain your positivity and engagement in your business.
If this doesn’t work then it might be the right time to look for something new
Trap 3: Negative, unpleasant or intimidating colleagues
I’m sure we’ve all come across some of these in our careers and they can really knock your confidence.
It’s not possible to change another person, but you can change yourself, which may alter the dynamic between the two of you.
Take an honest look at your behaviours and assumptions when you’re around them. Is there anything you could change for the positive?
If the situation still doesn’t change then I suggest you remember that it’s about them and not you personally, and if it’s a real problem you can take action.
Trap 4: Listening to you inner critic
Women who are particularly high achievers can suffer the most with perfectionism or have a loud and hurtful inner critic.
This inner voice with its disruptive comments about your abilities or what others think of you, can do the greatest damage to your confidence.
Realise that this voice is just thoughts popping into your mind and that mainly they’re untrue. So it is possible to ignore them or distract yourself.
One method is to ‘get out of your head’ and actively focus on other people. This means you’re listening to your critical voice less and are really present for others or your work.
Good luck for a confident 2017 and please share my article to help other women have one too.
‘10 Things You Like About Yourself’ is an exercise I use with some clients to develop a positive self-perception and build their self-esteem.
It sounds very simple however it’s more about the process they go through to make the list, than the exact words they use.
One client of mine, Jane (she gave her permission for this) found the exercise incredibly difficult. She struggled to find any positive words about herself, despite easily being able to list her negatives.
I suggested she asked her family, friends and colleagues at work for 3 positive words about her character. She bravely took that step out of her comfort zone. Using me as her reason, she was empowered to get answers from all the people she requested.
Initially she was quite dismissive of the words they gave her. “They’re just being kind” or “they don’t know me very well“.
However when she began to see a pattern in the words used ‘kind, caring, loyal, organised…..’ she started to believe and accept them. This has led to a real change in how she sees herself and her value.
It’s amazing that such a simple exercise can have such powerful outcomes. However it’s also sad that many women don’t actually recognise or celebrate their positive qualities.
How easy would you find this exercise?
How often do you say something positive about yourself to another person?
I’m not suggesting you have to continually blow your own trumpet, just a passing remark is enough to boost your own confidence. Such as “that was a really difficult meeting, but I think I handled it well” to a colleague. Or “I’m really pleased with how my daughters party went, all the organisation I did was worth it” to a friend.
It will probably feel uncomfortable initially, but keep practising as it’s such a powerful message to your self-esteem and confidence that you value yourself.
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If I look back to my much younger self with the benefit of hindsight, there are many things I might do or say differently.
More importantly there are some key messages about confidence I’d want to share with the less experienced version of me.
I grew with a secure and protected childhood, which was wonderful but may not have allowed me to develop my independence muscle enough.
It’s okay to listen to others opinions and take on board different perspectives, but trusting in my instincts and feelings should have been the most important influence.
2. Speak up, you won’t look stupid
Again this is about trusting that what I have to say is as important as anyone else thoughts. There isn’t always a right answer and by speaking up more I would have respected myself and boosted my confidence.
3. Your confidence will grow
I remember that scared feeling, when I first left home, when I got my first job and bought my first house.
Feeling nervous and uncomfortable in new experiences and situations is normal and I’d love to reassure my younger self that the more new experiences I throw myself into the more my confidence will grow.
4. Everyone is doing the best they can
It seemed to me when I first started at University or in new jobs that my peers and seniors all were so confident and sorted.
I now realise that everyone is just doing their best in situations and struggling with their own insecurities. So I should stop worrying what others think and just be me
5. Good enough is good enough
I definitely have some perfectionist tendencies and set myself high expectations. These days I have learnt to be more realistic with my intentions, which means I don’t always have to do or be the best.
The freedom and calmness this has given me are something I would love my younger self to have experienced.
Having said all this, I’ve enjoyed the learning process that has taken me to where I am, so maybe it’s better to discover these lessons for yourself?
Do you have any lessons on confidence you’d like to share with your younger self?
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It’s constantly in the press about the gender pay gap and how as women we’re making great achievements in our careers but not always being equally paid for it.
One of the reasons given for this is that as women we are less likely than men to put ourselves forward for promotions or negotiate for higher salaries.
So what is stopping us from being able to confidently ask for what we want and get it (most of the time)?
One of the explainations is down to our culture and upbringing; often women learn that to be self-serving isn’t ‘nice’ or ‘polite’ and therefore it feels very uncomfortable.
Another reason is for women it’s difficult to get the balance between being passive and aggressive, if you don’t negotiate you’re being too feminine and earn less and if you do negotiate, you’re too aggressive and maybe disliked.
When it comes to applying for promotions research has shown that women are biologically different from men in having the confidence to take a risk.
This was demonstrated when a group of volunteers were shown a job description for a role which would be a promotion and asked if they would apply. The men were confident to apply if they believed they could deliver 60% of the job description however for women they had to be nearly 100% sure before they would consider it.
Whether you want to influence your boss, convince an interviewer or your potential clients. Having the confidence to step out of your comfort zone and being able to confidently phrase your request is important.
People will interpret the way you communicate as a measure of your confidence and self-belief and use this to determine whether to agree to your request or not.
Here are some of my confidence tips to help you ask for more money or a promotion confidently:
Do your research – if you’re going to negotiate a pay rise or a starting salary, ensure you know your market value
Step out of your comfort zone – If you find it difficult to take a risk, build your confidence first with small challenges and remember, if you do nothing, nothing will change.
Use assertive language – this means sticking to the facts, using ‘I’ statements and asking clearly for what you would like. e.g. “There is a new role being advertised in marketing, I believe I’m ready to make that move and I would like your support to apply.”
Avoid apologizing and softening your request – Being polite is important but using phrases such as “if you don’t mind” or “would it be okay if I asked you…” dilute your request and your confidence
Don’t feel guilty – asking for something you want whilst still showing the other party respect is not selfish, instead it shows you value yourself
Get clarity on a negative response – if you don’t get the agreement you were looking for, rather than reacting negatively ask for some clarity. Using a phrase such as “I’d like to understand the reasons for your decision?” or “Can you give me some specific feedback on how I can become ready for that position?”
Good luck and do let me know how you get on!
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